It has recently been widely reported that the Listeriosis outbreak linked to hospital sandwiches has claimed five lives. The outbreak is linked to The Good Food Chain salads and pre-packed sandwiches.
The number of deaths related to pre-packed sandwiches and salads at hospitals had risen from three to five, Public Health England said on Friday. It said evidence suggested the deceased ate the products before 25 May.
Products from the Good Food Chain, which supplied to 43 NHS trusts, have been withdrawn and production halted.
North Country Cooked Meats, which supplied the Good Food Chain, subsequently produced a positive test result for the outbreak strain of listeria, PHE said.
This business and North Country Quality Foods, which it distributes through, have voluntarily ceased production.
The Good Food Chain Ltd said the company’s production facility in Stone, Staffordshire, was “cross contaminated by an ingredient from one of its approved meat suppliers”.
A spokesman for North Country Cooked Meats said it was “currently co-operating fully with the Environmental Health and the Food Standards Agency in their investigations”.
It has been reported in the press that a “root and branch” review of hospital food has been ordered by the health secretary after two more deaths were linked to an outbreak of listeria.
Listeriosis is a foodborne illness caused by the bacterium Listeria monocytogenes. It is rare, but can cause serious illness and death in vulnerable groups including the elderly, babies, expectant mothers and people with weakened immune systems (cancer patients, patients undergoing immunosuppressive or cytotoxic treatment, to name a few).
Key principles for reducing the risk from Listeria in foods are:
- Preventing foods from becoming contaminated with L. monocytogenes
- Controlling and limiting the opportunities for growth of L. monocytogenes, through strict controls (appropriate shelf life and effective cold chain management)
- Thorough cooking of food to kill L. Monocytogenes
What you can do to avoid listeria
To reduce the risk of listeria when preparing food at home, it’s important to:
- keep raw and ready-to-eat foods separate to avoid cross-contamination
- wash fruit and vegetables thoroughly
- keep chilled ready-to-eat foods cold – make sure your fridge is working properly and is set to 5⁰C or below
- always use foods by their use-by date
- follow the storage instructions on the label and use opened foods within two days unless instructions on the packaging say otherwise
- ready-to-eat food must be eaten within four hours of being taken out of the fridge
- cook or reheat foods until they are piping hot right through
- ensure that you follow manufacturer’s instructions in the preparation of all foods